Sometimes life is filled with joy and sorrow that fit so closely together that it's hard to see where one emotion ends and the others begin.
May 19th and May 20th are like that for me....
The first marks the happy celebration of Sarah's birthday, and the second is the anniversary of Therese's birthday, which is a much more somber day for me.
Today, Therese would have been 15 years old. Had she been healthy and "normal", she would have been finishing her freshman year of high school...
Sometimes I wonder what she would have been like....what her personality would be...who she would have looked like...
If she had been born healthy and "normal".
Last year, I was much more emotional around this time. This year, it hasn't been as bad. I still have the dull ache and the memories that pop up and feel so real and "fresh" that it seems all the events happened yesterday instead of 15 years ago....but the sting isn't so sharp.
For several years after her death, we would visit Therese's grave and I would buy roses for each of us to leave there. It was an emotional and painful visit; not only for Jay and I, but also for the boys. In fact, it was too painful. I felt like it was taking their emotions and shattering them. I was surprised that even several years after her death a visit to the cemetery could affect them so much.
The last year that we went, Mike didn't even want to get out of the car and I felt like forcing out all the emotion just wasn't healthy and wasn't the best way for us to honor their sister's memory.
But I want to honor her memory. She may have only been with us a short 16 days, (though she grew within me for 35.5 weeks), but she was still a part of our family. The briefness of her physical time in our lives still left a hole in our hearts that only she can fill.
Sometimes, I get the distinct sense deep in my heart that someone is missing. I take a head count of the kids and all 8 are there....yet, there is always one missing.
For me, losing a child has been the greatest cross I have had to carry. Even greater than raising a child with special needs. In fact, when Peter was officially diagnosed with Autism (which in my limited knowledge at the time I understood to be a child disconnecting with any relationship to the outside world), the rallying cry of my heart was, "I will not lose another child! I will fight and do everything I can!" I could not "save" Therese from her genetic disorder and heart defects....but I could try to "save" Peter. Autism was something I could fight....and Jay and I jumped in with everything we had. And we still fight for him, just with better balance and more peace that God is in control and has plans for Peter, too.
With great crosses come great blessings. Through Therese's short life God's presence manifested itself in so many tangible ways every.single.day.
Whether it was a well timed phone call from a friend, or the fact that every single one of her nurses was named Mary or Marie or Anne-Marie, or all the people that were praying for us, or the priests that were available for us to console us and answer all our questions about end of life issues...
There were just so many ways that we were consoled during that difficult time. Our hearts were still broken...but we were not alone.
Difficult moments bring new perspectives. Therese died on a Friday and her funeral Mass and burial was on the Saturday. That Sunday, my parents went to a different Mass so that we didn't have to take the boys to church with us. Emotionally fragile was a kind description of where we were at.
I remember we sat towards the back of the church that day. One of Michael's classmate's moms was at the entrance of the church when we walked in and started crying when she saw us, saying how sorry she was for our loss. The flowers that I had chosen were still up on the alter....pinks and purples(little girl colors) and full of life.
I cried through the entire Mass. The poor man that shared our pew must have been so confused and unnerved!
I remember praying from the depth of my soul when the priest held up the Eucharist during the Consecration, "Thank-you, Lord, for dying for us so that my little girl would have a place to go." It was such consolation to a mama's broken heart to not have to worry about where her baby was...or if she was ok...or if she was taken care of.
Such consolation that words cannot explain.
Even though 15 years have passed, and the pain has dulled, and I've grown accustomed to someone "missing" from our lives and the hole in my heart, I will never forget....
.....not the pain
.....not the sorrow
.....not the grief
.....not the graces
.....not the blessings
.....not the precious 3 lb 11oz baby girl that will always be a part of our family
Happy 15th Birthday, Therese Elizabeth.
We will always remember.......